Lasorda a big hit at Nevada fund-raiser | NevadaAppeal.com

Lasorda a big hit at Nevada fund-raiser

Thomas Ranson

BY THOMAS RANSON

Nevada Appeal News Service

RENO ” If baseball existed during the colonial period and George Washington needed someone to spread the word, Tommy Lasorda would have been the front-runner.

The former Dodgers manager made his third appearance at the 25th annual Bobby Dolan Dinner, a fundraiser for the Nevada baseball team, on Tuesday at the Silver Legacy where the baseball great showed why he’s baseball’s ambassador.

“I like the way you look,” Lasorda, the keynote speaker in the dinner’s first two years (1985, 1986), told the Nevada baseball team. “I don’t see those earrings. I don’t see those beards. You look like my team. You look like ball players. That’s the main thing.”

Speaking in front of his third Gary Powers’-coached team, Lasorda was pleased to be in Reno to honor his former teammate and friend. Dolan and Lasorda played in the minors in Montreal and Los Angeles together.

“Time goes by real fast,” said Lasorda, special adviser to the chairman for the Dodgers as he enters his 58th season with the franchise. “I’ll tell you something. I wish you could have had the opportunity to play with him. You’re talking about a guy who played his heart out. He didn’t have the ability like other guys had. He played as hard as he could with the ability God gave him. We were very close.”

Lasorda, though, played ambassador to the small crowd before speaking at the dinner. Lasorda, who coached the Dodgers for 20 years, strongly emphasized baseball is a team ” not individual ” sport.

“You have to make it happen and the way you make it happen is you play for the name on the front of your shirt and not for the name on the back of your shirt,” said Lasorda, who coached two World Series championship teams (1981 and 1988) and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. “When you play for the name on the back of your shirt, you now become an individualist and individualism doesn’t win championships. But when you play for the name on the front of your shirt, you’ve got a good chance at winning a lot of good games.”

Individualism has shown its ugly side during the last few seasons because of the ongoing steroid allegations, including the recent development with New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod, who began his career with the Seattle Mariners before playing for the Texas Rangers and now the Yankees, was one draft spot away from joining Lasorda’s Dodgers franchise.

“I knew him when he was in high school. We became friends then,” Lasorda recalled. “I’ve seen him through his whole major league career. He would have played for the Dodgers. When I worked him out … boy, he looked outstanding. If Seattle had signed (Darren) Dreifort (as its No. 1 pick in 1993), we would have had A-Rod.”

Lasorda has always been a team-first manager and now ambassador. What’s the formula for being the best the team? Confidence.

“If each and every one of you believes you’re going to finish first then you will practice like a first-place team. You’ll work like a first-place team and you’ll execute like a first-place team,” Lasorda said. “If you do that then that’s exactly how you’re going to finish ” number one. But how bad do you want first? That’s the question. That’s the major question in your mind. How much in your place are you willing to pay for your team? Only you can answer that question. You’ve got to believe. If you don’t believe in yourself, then you’re wasting your time.”

The longtime Dodger great’s message to the Wolf Pack, and every youngster playing baseball, was simple.

“Execution, self confidence and a desire. If you want to play that game to look good in a uniform, you’re in the wrong game,” he said. “You play to win. You play as hard as you can. You never know who’s out there watching you. There will be scouts out there watching you play. They want to see a guy who loves it, who plays hard, a guy who gives it everything he wants, everything that he has.”